High Country CSA returns for third season

Article Published: Mar. 17, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

High Country Community Supported Agriculture (HCCSA), a multi-farm project organized by Maverick Farms, is now offering memberships for its third growing season, which extends from June through mid-October.

Members pay $525 up front and, in exchange, receive weekly allotments of vegetables grown by 18 area farmers, to be picked up each Tuesday of the growing season at Bare Essentials Natural Market in Boone.

HCCSA is certified to take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment.
"In a CSA, community members band together to support their local farms - and in return get plenty of delicious vegetables throughout the season," Maverick Farms director Hillary Wilson said.

She added that the CSA model started in Japan and Europe in the 1960s, when people there became alarmed at the loss of family farms and the rise of industrialized food. The model took root in the United States in the 1980s, and today, there are estimated to be 1,700 CSAs in the North America.

"The model is really about communities committing to keeping farms viable - when people don't stay active, farms disappear," Wilson said.

Maverick Farms established High Country CSA in January 2009 with funding from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and in partnership with local farms and farmer groups, such as the New River Organic Growers Cooperative. All of the participating farms grow with organic methods.

Previously, Maverick had run a CSA exclusively with its own produce from 2005-08.

"We felt like we had maxed out the size of our CSA, based on the amount of land we farm, and yet demand from the community for shares kept rising," Wilson said. "Bundling up produce from several farms makes lots of sense for our area, because farms tend to be small, and there's a great diversity of microclimates. The multi-farm model makes the CSA more robust, more resilient to bad weather."

High Country CSA opened the 2009 season with 18 farms growing for 50 shareholding families. Last year, the program extended to 22 area farms and growing for more than 80 local families. For the 2011 season, HCCSA plans to sell 125 shares.

Matt Cooper's Valle Crucis-based Lively Up Farm has participated in HCCSA since its launch in 2009.

"As an emerging farmer determined to make it growing vegetables and living self-sufficiently, I sincerely could not do it without the HCCSA," Cooper said. "I have known each year what I need to grow and how much I will make. Farmers' markets are not enough to make it as a farmer."
Cooper also praised CSAs as a way of stabilizing an area's farmland.

"The CSA model is a no-brainer for any farmer in my opinion," he said. "The hurdle is initiating a CSA. HCCSA took that headache away for me, making one less challenge to being a farmer. I am especially excited each year to meet the members who truly embrace local food. Thank you, HCCSA members!"

At the pickups each week, other local-farm products will be available on a per-order basis, including meats and cheese from pasture-raised animals.

For more information, call (828) 963-4656, email (highcountrycsa@gmail.com) or click to http://www.maverickfarms.com.

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